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spring, is that you?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Recipe: passion fruit meringues

I knew it would snow again. How awesome for us that we could backcountry ski fresh snow in our local mountains one day, then go for a trail run in these same mountains the next day. The weather is a spring mix bouquet – it’s got a little bit of everything going on right now. We are rolling with it, because staying indoors is not an option.


sunrise clouds revealing new snow

a fast-moving thunderstorm at sunset



Jeremy and I have been waiting for a window of good weather all month when the snow is still decent in the high country. Active storms, cooler weather, and work obligations finally cleared this weekend. We pounced on the opportunity to get Neva out for her first ski backpack. It was an overnight trip into our local backcountry and we kept it simple for our own sanity as well as Neva’s safety. Unlike summer backpacking, early season backpacking involves more bulk and weight to account for cold nights, camping on snow, potential storms, and ski equipment. Although the forecast thunderstorms never materialized, we camped below treeline to be safe. Of course, Neva had the time of her life romping in the snow, getting extra food and snacks (she burned a lot of calories), catching the scent of a bazillion wild animals, and hogging our sleeping bags all night.

neva cools off in the snow – it was a scorching 70°f

skinning uphill with a heavy pack and a dog that likes to pull every which way is hard work

clouds building on the divide

home for the night



When Jeremy first introduced me to backpacking in March of 1993, he explained that it is “the endeavor of a thousand little discomforts”. But with experience, we learned to minimize, ignore, or accept those discomforts in exchange for the freedom of the hills. Ski backpacking with a one-year old crazy dog definitely adds more complexity and even pain. An outsider might regard this activity as recreation, but Jeremy and I definitely classify it as fun #2. Worth it? Absolutely. Will we take Neva again? We’ll see.

pre-dawn colors in the east

breaking down camp at 6:30 am

hiking the last couple of miles out



As the sun lingers in the sky for a few more minutes each day, my mind turns to tropical flavors. If anything tastes like sunshine, it is passion fruit. I’ve gone to great lengths in the past to procure fresh passion fruit, but sometimes I have to suck it up and buy some at outrageous prices here in Colorado for a shoot. Never let it be said that I have ever allowed a passion fruit to go to waste. Actually, I hate waste in general, which is why I wound up making these passion fruit meringues – because I always have an excess of egg whites in my refrigerator!

eggs, sugar, passion fruit

precious pulp and juice



**Jump for more butter**

april doings

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry brioche

When I left the house Tuesday morning, we still had a couple feet of snow blanketing the yard. Several hours later I stepped off my plane into the sticky, warm embrace of Charlotte, North Carolina to catch my connection to Virginia. April is about as late as I am willing to visit the southeast because it’s usually after my local ski resorts close, but before Virginia weather becomes unbearably and oppressively hot and humid. Jeremy and I spent a few days with my parents – a belated celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. Really though, any opportunity for us to spend time together is a celebration of sorts. We dined out, we dined in, we drank many fine bottles of wine, everyone had a lovely time. It’s also a chance for me to observe how my parents live their lives when we are apart. Obviously, they don’t indulge in the wine and food the way they do when we visit, but I like knowing that they are surrounded by caring friends and neighbors, that they get regular exercise, and that they are generally happy and in good health.


sunset from my parents’ backyard

breakfast out at a local diner

dad pours a 24 year old dom pérignon

the view of the front yard



As you can see, spring has full on sprung in Williamsburg and I imagine it is that way around most parts of the country. Jeremy and I did a quick 5-mile run that didn’t involve clambering over snow or scrambling up rocky trails (crazy, I know) and gave us green-out because everything is so leafy and springy. Dad took us night-fishing and we caught and released a couple of channel cats (catfish). We met with neighbors over cocktails and shared a dinner with a longtime family friend. I cooked red wine braised short ribs for my parents. And we watched The Revenant, which made me homesick for the American West. Also, I couldn’t wait to get back to my little pup pup who was living it up at doggy camp with all of her pals.

post bath, pre-treats



Around this time last year, we were prepping our house and our lives to welcome little Neva. We knew full well that our freedom was limited, so we got our last spring backcountry ski trips and trail runs in, we enjoyed some meals out, and I shot a lot of recipes. But one recipe in particular was begging to be made. If you know anything about me, you know that I am crazy for huckleberries. [The thought had occurred to me to change this blog to Use Real Huckleberries, but I am still quite devoted to butter.] One day, a search for “huckleberry brioche” brought me to a million blueberry brioche recipes. How is that? The blueberry brioche recipe came from a cookbook by the name of Huckleberry, which was written by the owner of a Santa Monica bakery, Huckleberry. Well, I didn’t want to make blueberry brioche, but blueberries are often substituted for huckleberries, which are harder to come by (but so much better than blueberries), so why not substitute hucks for blues? Why not! Of course, if you don’t have hucks – you can always make the recipe as it was originally intended.

huckleberries, lemon, yeast, sugar, bread flour, all-purpose flour, butter, eggs, salt, milk, cream, egg yolks



There was a major snafu from the beginning and that was because there is an error in the original recipe. The flours were listed by weight and volume. The volumes were correct, but the weights were not. Unfortunately, I mostly go by weight when possible, so my dough looked really dry and wrong. I stopped before adding the butter and looked online for clues. Apparently, the cookbook has a number of errors that people were (rightfully) upset about. The weights for the flours were doubled in the blueberry brioche recipe. Luckily, I caught it in time to double the rest of the ingredients. I wound up with two loaves instead of wasting my precious ingredients. Still, I would have liked to dope slap the editor.

Fresh berries are going to give you the best results. In April, my only choice was to use frozen huckleberries, but my reasoning went like this: the fresh berries are placed in the freezer while the dough is being prepared, so the berries are partially frozen when you use them. My berries were just MORE frozen. See? I’ll tell you why it makes a difference and how to counter the effects a few paragraphs down. If you can use fresh, use fresh – but frozen will work in a pinch.


whisk the yeast into the warm milk

add the eggs, yolk, flours, sugar, salt

the dough should start to pull away from the sides



**Jump for more butter**

the berry essence of spring

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Recipe: baked strawberry doughnuts

I’m ready for it. Ready for spring. The ski resorts are closing one by one in Colorado as the season winds down. I’m okay with that, because spring means spring skiing in the backcountry. It means climbing glazed ice in the mornings when the temperatures still dip below freezing. It means you have to unzip the vents in your ski pants and strip down to short sleeves because the air is warm and the sun beats down on you as you make your way up the mountains. Talk about earning your turns. But by mid-morning, the snow beneath your skis is heavy with water and feels soft when you glide over it. And there aren’t those horrible winter winds. It’s a great way to gear up for summer trail running, hiking, and backpacking.


neva playing in fresh snow late last week

i nabbed last tracks on a local trail the day before it closed for elk calving season



Jeremy and I are preparing for summer, too. We’ve been updating our summer running and hiking socks (I am a huge fan of Bridgedale socks) as well as some footwear and fuels for endurance training. We are especially excited about taking Neva trail running now that she is a year old. She has been pretty good on our ski tours this winter and we hope that translates well to trail runs. But there is still plenty of snow in the high country with more in the forecast through the end of the month, so we shall ski until we can’t ski. Neva seems fine with that.

neva dug a hole to china looking for her tennis ball

ah, the insanity…



Another reason spring is on my brain is strawberries. You can find strawberries all year in grocery stores, but the winter berries that ship in from the southern hemisphere are flavorless at best. It isn’t until spring when the berries start to look, smell, and taste like actual strawberries. I bought a few pounds of organic strawberries last week to see if they were any good. They weren’t the best, but they weren’t bad! I know in a month or so they will be much better and then I’ll set to work making strawberry jam and strawberry vodka and strawberry syrup for summer entertaining. But for now, these baked strawberry doughnuts are the bombdiggity even if the strawberries aren’t at their peak.

you’ll need to butter your doughnut pans

and flour them



I bought doughnut pans for baking doughnuts a few years ago and liked the results well enough. The doughnuts don’t come out like their fried counterparts, but they are still quite good and take a smaller bite out of your caloric allowance. Plus, there is the added bonus of easier cleanup. Cleaning up after deep-frying is a pain. I didn’t feel enough excitement about the baked doughnuts to make them very often – partly because I stored the pans in a hard to reach cabinet and partly because I could get a really good cake doughnut on the road between Crested Butte and Nederland (Daylight Donuts makes great doughnuts). And then I found a recipe for strawberry doughnuts made with real strawberries.

flour, vegetable oil, salt, baking soda, eggs, butter (for the pans), strawberries, sugar, vanilla, buttermilk

stir the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together

combine the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla

it might look curdled, but that’s okay



**Jump for more butter**